McCann wants Hendon to be just as organised as ‘George Graham-esque’ Boreham Wood in FA Cup showdown

Hendon manager Gary McCann. Pic: DBeechPhotography

Hendon manager Gary McCann. Pic: DBeechPhotography - Credit: Archant

Hendon manager Gary McCann says his side will need to match the defensive resilience and organisation of a “George Graham-esque” Boreham Wood outfit if they are to produce a memorable FA Cup upset on Saturday.

The Dons have reached the fourth qualifying round for the first time in four years but they have their work cut out this weekend as they visit a club that sits two divisions and 56 places above them in the pyramid.

Boreham Wood are 12th in the National League – formerly known as the Conference Premier Division – and they have won their last two games, including a 2-0 victory at Macclesfield Town on Saturday.

McCann feels that result underlines The Wood’s strengths, which remind him of Arsenal’s discipline and structure under Graham, and he would like his side to be equally durable – especially after Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Lowestoft Town in the Ryman League Premier Division, when the Greens threw away a 3-0 lead.

“We’ve done our due diligence as well as we can – we’ve watched them twice,” said McCann. “They’ve got an efficiency about them which is very George Graham-esque. They don’t give very much away, they’re capable of grinding results out.

“If you look back over the last 18 months, they’ve not conceded many goals and that comes down to having a very good defensive coach in Jason Goodliffe and a good coach in [former Hendon player and coach] Junior Lewis on the whole.

“What you would say about our team is that we’ve been pretty expansive, we’ve scored plenty of goals. We felt with the players we added to the group and the personnel we have in the squad that goals wouldn’t be a problem, and that hasn’t been an issue – six goals in our last two games tells you that.

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“What has been an area that needs improvement is keeping the goals out, and I don’t just aim that solely at the back four and goalkeeper. It’s a collective issue.

“We’re up against better players on Saturday and it will be a real test and a challenge for our offensive players, but I do believe we have a threat in the final third.

“Other than the two full-backs [Chris Seeby and Ollie Sprague] and Kezie [Ibe], I think we’ll be nearly at full quota so it will be a side that I feel can take the game to Boreham Wood.But the big question mark over us will be if we can keep them out, which is what we’ll be working on in tonight’s (Thursday’s) session.”

While Hendon lie in the bottom three places in the league, they have raised their game in their three FA Cup ties so far – and McCann hopes Boreham Wood might find their favourites tag uncomfortable.

“I think we’ve had some good performances in parts of games in the league but our most efficient and our most attractive performances have definitely come in the FA Cup, for sure,” said the Greens boss.

“Our most complete performances have come in this competition but it’s going to take a huge performance on Saturday. On paper it’s the toughest draw we could have got – a Conference Premier side away from home.

“But I think [Boreham Wood] would be in agreement that in most of the games they go into they’re either on a level field or they’re the underdogs. They’ve obviously got a different role on Saturday and we’ve got to maybe try to latch onto that.

“They are big favourites and we’re huge underdogs, but we’ll go into the game on the front foot and see where that takes us.”

A victory this weekend would give Hendon another invaluable financial boost, adding another £12,500 to the £15,000 they have already earned in prize money from their cup run.

“It’s huge for any non-league club,” said McCann. “We have a tough ask to add any more to that kitty but we’ll be doing our utmost to make it happen – not just for the finances it brings in, it’s the romance of the FA Cup.

“We’re one game away from a potential tie against Sheffield United away, or something like that, so that in itself is the biggest motivation.”